“A young German soldier’s terrifying experiences and distress on the western front during World War I.”

Director: Edward Berger
Writers: Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, Ian Stokell
Staring: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer
Rated: R
Release Date: October 28. 2022

All Quiet On The Western Front (2022) won four Oscars at the 95th Academy Awards; Best International Feature Film, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Production Design. And it deserved every single one of them. I would argue it deserved more. The original All Quiet On The Western Front in 1930 was one of the first and best examples of mass culture anti-war propaganda. This remake takes its predecessors message and makes it even more profound and heartbreaking.

World War I was an absolute terror dome of death and All Quiet On The Western Front brings it to live with scary realism. Erich Maria Remarque wrote the book this movie is based off of based off his own experiences as a German solider during World War I. If he was alive today, I would be willing to bet he would have the same reaction that World War II vets had the first time they saw Saving Private Ryan (1998).

Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) and his band of teenagers enlist in the Germany army thinking it is the proper patriotic decision to make. Bäumer and his friends have dreams of glitz and glamor, but their mirages of grandeur are quickly mucked up by the reality of war. No Man’s Land is filled with the deadly realities and Bäumer has to come to grips with the fact that he is part of a futile attempt of nationalist propaganda. Even with peace is within arms reach, the pull of war draws Bäumer into a tempest of bullets and regret.

The realities of war and the acceptance of dread that All Quiet On The Western Front highlights makes it a sad, human story. You can see the life get sucked out of the new recruits bodies when they are riding on the trucks and getting dumped off into the wet cesspool that is the trenches. It is written on all of their faces. It is illuminated in their body language. This is not the dream that Bäumer expected it to be.

Felix Kammerer as Paul Bäumer

All Quiet On The Western Front is gorgeous. Absolutely breathtaking. You could show this movie without any dialogue and know exactly what is happening. You could know exactly what the characters are feeling. Hell, the lighting and visual set pieces would look good in black & white, but the accented colors make it even more intense. The visual storytelling is off the charts, and you knew that would be the focus right from the start of the movie. We see soldiers die and their clothes getting washed and recycled for a new recruit. The replacing of the name and patching of holes is all just part of a miserable assembly line necessary during war. Seeing this process at the start, and then having it referenced later in the movie with hung coats in a drying room makes you pay attention because the shots shown are more important than anything the characters can actually say.

James Friend got the win for Best Cinematography at the Oscars. He takes home the win with his first ever nomination. All Quiet On The Western Front is the best looking movie I have seen since 1917 (2019), which was oversaw by Roger Deakins (who was also nominated this year for Empire Of Light (2022)). Between these two different stories surrounding World War I, history classes across the country have a far accurate view of what trench warfare looks like.

There were two visual moments from All Quiet On The Western Front that stick out most to me.

The tanks. The fucking tanks. This is straight out of a horror monster movie. This is what it is like to watch Godzilla-esq creatures stomp over everything you hold dear. You can see the fear on Felix’s face when the mechanical beast emerges from the yellow tinted smoke. It is only one tank at first, but the infection of armor multiplies. These young men who were so eager to join the war have seen so many horrors, but nothing more deadly than the rocket shooting death machines. And when the talk crawls over the trenches, that has to be the ultimate kick in the pants because the trenches were one of the few areas a solider could feel safe. Now these tanks are literally rolling over them as if they are nothing more than a crack in the sidewalk.

The second visually striking moment (of which there are many, many to pick from) also comes near the end of the movie. It is when Bäumer is in the a bomb divot of no man’s land killing a french solider.

The full retreat, the pan up to the plane, the fall into a massive grave pit. The desperation leading to this moment of violence is made more sad by the aftermath when Bäumer has immediate regret and he tries to save this french soldier’s life. The caked mud on his face showing the two different sides that Bäumer is having to deal with; he is both fighting for his life and he is very good at staying alive, but he is also a broken soul who knows that he is doing is futile for a cause he once cared about so much. Bäumer is breaking. He is finally cracking.

This scene in the crater shows Bäumer at his lowest point. Everything that is happening around him leaves him alone, dark, and broken. He tries to save the frenchman’s life as an effort to save his own soul. But he is broken. He is past saving. The war has ruined him forever.

How about this movie being elix Kammerer first movie. Just absolutely nuts.

The biggest win for All Quiet On The Western Front on Oscar night wasn’t Best International Feature. It wasn’t the Cinematography or Best Production Design. It is the trophy for Best Original Score.

I have already made my point that aspects of this movie look like a horror movie. I have also mentioned how you can watch All Quiet On The Western Front without any words. The visuals are stunning, but let’s not forget the musical score orchestrated by Volker Bertelmann.

Right from the get-go with Remains, you know the journey is going to be jarring. The evil synth that crescendos followed with the stressful strings tweaking in the back of your ear drums. The song let’s you know right off the bat that if you are entering this war movie, you are going to war with it.

Then there is the three song sequence of Tanks, War Machines and Retreat.

Tanks is alarm bells. Tanks is bunker down because the ground is shaking and something is coming. The old drums of war that come out near the end of the song and fade into silence. You can sense the danger coming, and once it’s here, you are silenced by it.
Here come the drums. Mix in the evil synth. No longer are there any pauses between the beats. You can sense every bit of dread these war machines bring with them. Try as you may to stand your ground, it still wont be enough.
And then there is Retreat. The fleeting sense of possibly hope as your run away. Oh wait, you remember the synth from Remains? You remember the strings that struck your ear drums at the start of the movie? Those familiar beats are back. You thought you could run away from it. But you can’t. It will always find you.

Watch All Quiet On The Western Front. Every bit of it comes together well. It is worth all the praise it has gotten and one can argue it is worth more than it. I would argue that.

STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)

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